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The Crucible by Arthur Miller - Barron's Booknotes
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DEPUTY GOVERNOR DANFORTH

Overall, Deputy Governor Danforth does more damage
in this play than anyone else, even Abigail Williams. As
Deputy Governor of Massachusetts, he is the second
most powerful man in the province. As head of the
court, he has the authority to try, convict, and execute
anyone he sees fit. Abigail may "cry out" innocent
people as witches; Danforth hangs them.

Some would say he is a rigid man, especially in his
sticking to the letter of the law. In Act III he will not let
Giles Corey submit his evidence unless it is in proper
affidavit form. In Act IV, unless John Proctor will sign a
written confession, it is no confession. In everything he
does, Danforth is most concerned with staying within the
precise limits of the statutes.

But look at what he's faced with. To him "there is a
moving plot to topple Christ in the country," and he is
willing to use every ounce of his prodigious power to
prevent that from happening. If he gives in the slightest
bit, God's whole defensive line will break. Considering
the way he sees the situation, it takes tremendous
strength and courage to stand so firm against such
formidable attack.



And don't forget that to the Puritans the law, with which
Danforth seems so obsessed, was made not by man but
by God. Massachusetts at this time is a theocracy-a
government ordained by God as his "visible Kingdome"
on Earth. Reverend Hale is thinking exactly like
Danforth when, he tells Proctor in Act II:

Theology [literally, "God's word"], sir, is a fortress; no
crack in a fortress may be accounted small.

Even bending the law a little is dangerous business,
especially at such a dangerous time as this.

Ironically, it is Danforth's strength and courage that
allow the witch madness to grow to such monstrous
proportions. A weaker man would have broken under the
strain; a man less brave would have quailed before
hanging someone like Rebecca Nurse. Under a shakier
hand, the court's authority might have disintegrated, and
after some confusion, life would have returned to
normal.

But for all his rigidity, there seems to be no malice in
Danforth, as there is in Parris and Hathorne. His
mentions are good, heroic, even. He just happens to be
wrong. And nineteen innocent people are hanged on his
signature.

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